Oh Steelrising, I wanted to love you so much. I am such a fan of the developer, Spiders, after I absolutely fell in love with Greedfall back on the PS4 and I was so excited at the idea of them doing a Soulslike set in Renaissance France with a steampunk/automaton edge to it. On paper Steelrising was everything I could ask for in a video game… but what went wrong?
Lots, if I’m honest. Steelrising just isn’t a great video game from graphics to gameplay. The first cutscene tells you enough about the graphical prowess of this game with some of the worst lip syncing I have ever seen in a video game. It was almost as badly dubbed as some of the old school martial arts films we grew up on – or even the parody Kung Pao! Enter the Fist where the dog barks and a full five seconds later you hear the bark noise – it can be that bad. The character design themselves weren’t horrific, in fact whilst they definitely look like a mid range PS4 game there isn’t anything bad about the character design itself.
This leads into the character creator for the game, consisting of five choices each with about six variations that give you slightly altered faces or a different wig. At this point it would have been better to not include a character creator at all, as it just ended up annoying me more than if I was just given a character. This is a basic shoehorned character creator that exists because the developers felt they had to have one instead of giving me a character and allowing my armour to be visible on them as I play through the game. After the character creation you are given five starting classes to choose from. Here you have different stats and a starting weapon, though as with all games of this ilk, I ended up using said starting weapon for a very small amount of time before completely changing it for something new and better.
Gameplay itself is stock Soulslike really. All the standard button mapping with R1 to attack, L2 is shield etc. Steelrising also features all the usual fare that’s expected in Soulslikes in the gameplay loop of die and lose all your souls/runes/aegis… your experience basically before sprinting back to where you perished in order to retrieve it. As a mechanic it works, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
As you progress you can light the games bonfires… I mean activate the Vestals to create a checkpoint that you will respawn at when you die, it’s at these that you will regain your potions or buy new weaponry for your character… sound familiar? As you’d expect, most of the gameplay revolves around stamina management, or ‘heat’ as an Automaton. If you are too aggressive in the fight you will overheat and not be able to perform an action for a little while, a cool change here is that you can use rapid cooling to cool down much faster and regain stamina quicker. Press this too soon however and you’ll spend longer unable to perform actions opening yourself up to attacks, but when you time it just right it feels so good to regain that edge – think Active reload in the Gears franchise (heh, Gears).
It’s a Soulslike, we all know what we’re in for by this point.
The main issue here is the gameplay doesn’t feel as good as a Souls game. It feels far clunkier and floatier at the same time, not quite sitting in the right area of either to feel like my attacks are hitting hard or fast enough. This all being said, I would be lying if I said I hated it. There’s something inherently charming about the B-movie aesthetic it has to it that I couldn’t escape. Once I started the game I did find myself coming back to it again and again because I wanted to see more of the world.
I like the world of Steelrising, I always appreciate a period in history which has been injected with machinery, a la steampunk. In this case it’s revolutionary France with China doll-esque automatons running around. You are essentially tasked with destroying the King’s robots and assisting in the French Revolution, there isn’t much more story to it than that, but again, this is something we have come to expect from Soulslikes.
Which brings me to my verdict. I think if you have played all of FromSoft’s games and both the Nioh’s, and are looking for the next best thing after all those and you can’t wait for Lies of P, you could do much worse than Steelrising. The graphics are pants and the gameplay a weird mix of float and clunk but this all adds to the B-movie style that the game seems to (however inadvertently) be going for. With this in mind I score Steelrising
6.5 / 10
What do you think of the game? Let me know in the comments below.
Written by Luke.
Edited by Alexx.